“It’s snowing,” Juergen thought aloud looking at The Wall. “Sure the snow can go over either side of The Wall in a breeze, yet, love cannot. I wish we were snowflakes,” he declared to the wind. Wind whistled in agreement.
Since The Wall had gone up in August cutting him off from his love who lived on the other side, Juergen had taken to talking to himself. He was getting good at it, getting to the point where he could win most of the arguments. Thinking aloud helped fuel his poetry, as he could better hear the voice of his words and later weave them in to poetic tapestries. Also, it helped him feel like he was still talking to Helen. He imagined her standing on the other side, answering back.
Juergen looked up at the snow passing over The Wall and thought he had to figure out a way to do the same. ‘Yes, I will get in to the east one way or another.’ This thought he kept to himself, being smart enough not to say thoughts like this out loud, especially in front of a guard in his tower staring down at him.
He walked along the The Wall heading south through the city. Juergen was looking for the best place to attempt his crossing. After walking an hour and more, Juergen could see there really was no good point of crossing. The bastards had erected a guard tower in sight of two more guard towers, guarded with men who were on the orders of shoot to kill.
‘Anywhere I try to climb over is going to be in full view of at least two guard towers. Climbing is hopeless.’
That is when Juergen decided to fly over in a hot air balloon.
First thing he had to do was make a hot air balloon. He wouldn’t risk asking around for one, that would only get him caught before he ever had a chance at lift off.
“No, I’ll make it,” Juergen said to his empty apartment, which was good at keeping secrets.
Over the next few months, as Winter succumbed to the warmth of Spring, then Spring gave itself up to the heat of Summer, Juergen worked to discreetly put together his homemade hot air balloon. By August, almost a year to the day they put up The Wall, Juergen was ready to try and fly over it.
He had hidden the balloon in a park about half a kilometer from The Wall. He waded through the thick bushes to his balloon wrapped under plastic tarp, camouflaged beneath a bed of branches. He tossed the branches aside, unwrapped the tarp and fired up his balloon. The balloon rose straight up through the slight clearing in the thick of trees. Juergen got up above the trees, maybe 100 meters in the air, a benevolent eastern wind helped guide the balloon towards East Germany, and Helen. His heart raced as he saw The Wall below, pointing their spotlights down to the ground, letting him fly by undetected.
He flew about a kilometer across the border before finding a patch of ground that was unoccupied. He lowered the balloon gently into the abandoned parking lot, eyes darting about looking for any sign of another set of eyes witnessing his arrival.
He got out, then dragged the basket of his balloon across the parking lot to a large mound of garbage. Juergen buried his balloon in a heap of garbage before setting off to find his love.
He had been to her apartment so many times that he could sleepwalk through these East German streets and still find his way to her door. He looked for a taxi, but found this side of the city void of taxis at three o’clock in the morning. He walked fast, though, he held back from running.
Finally he was at her door. His only fear was that she had moved. He set the fear aside as he knocked on her door. He heard footsteps. Were they hers? The footsteps stopped on the other side of the door.
It was her voice, it was Helen.
“Helen! It’s me, Juergen!” he sang.
He heard her unlocking locks. She opened the door and let him in.
“Helen!” He reached for her. She tensed up, turned her head from his kiss.
“What are you doing here?”
“Who’s that, Helen?” A man’s voice called from the bedroom. Juergen’s face fell, his mouth went dry.
“Who’s that, Helen?” Juergen asked the same question, though much more meekly.
A man, wearing only his underwear stepped out into the hall.
“Who’s this?” He asked aggressively.
“Karl, this is Juergen,” Helen introduced. The men did not shake hands.
Juergen felt as though he had been shot in the chest and was numb to the pain he knew he was feeling.
“I came for you,” he mumbled to Helen.
“How did you get here? How?”
“Hot air balloon. I hid it. We can get out of here right now, tonight. Come with me and we can escape to the west,” he pleaded with her, though he knew her answer.
“I’m with Karl now. I- I didn’t think you’d- I can’t believe this. Can you get all three of us back?”
“There’s only room for two,” he said looking at her chin. Every other part of her looked the same, except her eyes. Her eyes had changed so painfully from filled with love to filled with pity. He couldn’t look at them, he had to get out from under them.
“Then I can’t go with you. I am sorry, Juergen, this is incredible of you to try and get me out, but, I love Karl and I can’t leave him.”
These were the worst words Juergen had ever heard. It was the first time he had heard her use, ‘love’ in such a cruel way.
“Then you go together. I’ll show you where the balloon is, then you two fly away.”
“Oh, Juergen, you’d do that? You are the greatest man!” Now she hugged him.
“If I’m the greatest, why are you going with him?” He asked in her embrace.
She let go. “Juergen, I’m sorry. I never thought I’d see you again, so, I met Karl and we’re in love.”
It killed Juergen to know that he was not part of her, ‘we’.
“Ok, you don’t have to rub it in. Let’s just get you two the balloon so you can get the hell out of my sight.”
He showed them to the balloon, gave them simple instructions on how to work it, then stepped away and didn’t watch as Helen and Karl went up up up in to the night sky. And he didn’t look back when he heard the sirens and gunfire.
Juergen would spend the rest of his life in East Germany. He would barely notice The Wall that surrounded the city, for he had no desire to get out. Sometimes, he would think of Helen, and the night she flew away. With the balm of time, the sound of sirens and gunfire softened, so, too, did his thoughts that she didn’t make it. Karl always got killed, though.